Obtain a credit card that will be used exclusively for business. You can use a personal credit card but if it is dedicated to business use, it will be easier to keep track of company purchases and it will make it easier to deduct the interest expense.
Establish a way to accept customer credit card payments. Even though there are fees associated with accepting credit cards, it is worth making it easy for customers to give you money. You can arrange with your bank to set up a merchant account that will make processing credit cards possible.
It is also easy to set up an account with Square. Go to www.squareup.com to find out more.
It is hard to imagine how companies used to be run without computers. They make bookkeeping, data entry, printing, finding customer information, communication, and getting information manageable for a one-person operation.
There are many sources to get a free email address. Get one to use for business. Be sure to include that address on your business card and any other places you list your contact information.
The internet has made starting a business easier. Abundant information is available at your fingertips.
You must back up all of your business information regularly and store it in a fire-safe box, at some other location, or on the Cloud. Computers are not safe enough to trust alone for your business information. They can crash, get viruses, be stolen, or burn in a fire. Protect your business from these tragedies.
Basic printing ability is all you need in the beginning.
Please refer to the online reference portion of the start-up guide to get additional suggestions for meeting your software needs. You do not need to become a computing expert. Keep it simple. Find a knowledgeable friend to help you or direct you to people that can teach you the basics of what you need to know. You do not need to take college classes to learn the necessary skills. There are one-day classes and on-line opportunities to learn the skills you need.
You need computer software to accomplish three tasks:
B. Keep track of customer and job information (Wizard Solution).
C. Publishing to design flyers and advertisements
Establish a monthly bookkeeping system. A bookkeeper can assist you in setting this up for you. They can label the expense categories and setup report pages for the bookkeeping software. Once the system is customized for your needs, it should be relatively easy for you to fill in the appropriate numbers in the correct places.
The bookkeeper can let you know what information the tax preparer will need to do your taxes. This is an area that can eventually be easily “out sourced”.
Determine the system you will use to keep track of unpaid invoices. Determine how you will follow up with customers that do not pay in a timely manner.
This system is critical for your success. Usually works best if the person making the follow-up call was not who did the actual work. You may get office help with this without having them generally answer the phone and quote customers.
Establish a system to record and organize customer information. The data should be uploaded at least on a monthly basis. Wizard Solution is available to you as a member to use for this purpose. This is one of the first things you will want to “out source” without using that person to generally answer your phone, especially if your typing skills are not good.
Determine and organized a system to make periodic bank deposits. Steady cash flow is critical for the survival of a business. Customer payments must make it safely into your checking account.
Determine the schedule and system to print, prepare for mailing, and send out customer follow up materials. This part of the business is as important as servicing the customer. Future company profit is dependent on this system. This is something that is OK to eventually “out source” to someone to do for you, like a stay at home mom or your niece or someone without having to come into an office or to generally answer your phone.
These reports are needed to evaluate the status and progress of the company. Example of some of the needed monthly reports are profit and loss, customer sources, and services provided. These accurate reports are necessary to make important adjustments to how the business is run.
Determine the system you will use to pay your business bills in a timely manner.
Determine who will answer the phone during the work day and after hours. Will it be you, an answering service, or will the call go to voice mail? Repeat and referral customers are generally willing to leave messages on a voice mail and wait for your return call. Shoppers who haven’t used you before will generally hang up if they cannot talk to someone who can answer their questions and schedule an appointment. Do NOT hire anyone to answer your phone (or use your wife). They cannot schedule or quote a price so why bother?!
Determine how you are going to keep track of customer appointments. Will you use a physical schedule book you can purchase from an office supply store or an electronic one on your computer?
Will you use a “window of time” for your arrival at homes such as a 30 minute window for the first appointment or a two hour window for subsequent appointments?
Determine the scripts you will use to answer the phone, answer consumer questions, schedule appointments, and make quality check calls. Whatever you do, do NOT hire anyone to answer your phone! You can and should eventually hire someone to do quality check calls, but NOT talk to new customers!
Most people dedicate a part of the home for this purpose. At the start-up stage of your business, it is not appropriate to invest a lot of money to create an effective office. Spending should be kept to a minimum to establish your office.
The area should be dedicated to business use. You need to know where all of your records, receipts, forms, and office supplies are. Other family members should not be using this area and supplies for other purposes.
This area needs to be quiet when you are using it for business. You must be able to concentrate and talk on the phone without background noise. A customer on the phone should not be able to hear children, dogs, or a television playing in the background. So unless you have absolutely NO quiet place to return calls then absolutely do NOT rent office space outside your home.
File folder box
Week/Month-At-A-Glance schedule book
Work order book (invoice)
Pens and pencils
You can get a “literature rack” to keep these things in next to your desk, so they are readily available to you. Also useful to keep various literature pieces in that you regularly use.
Business requires that money transfer from customers to your company and then out to suppliers and your personal banking account. You need to establish a business checking account with a banking institution to make this possible.
A good place to start will be to use the bank that you currently use for your personal banking. They will assist you in setting up the accounts you need.
You need a dedicated business checking account that can accept payments made in your company’s name. This account should not be used for personal expenses. Your bank representative will need a copy of your fictitious name document. Be prepared to deposit cash into the account in order to open it.
Your first official decision is to name your company. It is a good idea to put some thought into this choice, but at the same time, don’t lose sleep over the fear that you must come up with the perfect name. There is no ideal name that will make your company succeed. You can always change it later if you should receive a vision of a super name.
There are some things to consider: You want to keep your name “woman” friendly if you want any residential work. A name like “The Dirt Destroyer” may not be the best. Spend some time searching the Internet for ideas. Look up “carpet cleaning” in various cities across the country and see what other companies have chosen for names.
Unless you have decided to target budget shoppers, avoid the names that imply low-price such as “budget” and “affordable.”
Once you have selected a name you like, do an Internet search to confirm that no one else is using the same or similar name in your county and surrounding area. It would be a shame to choose a name that had previously been used by a company that had a bad reputation.
Ask for the opinion of several people that represent your target market. If you want to target occupied residential homes, it would make sense to test your potential name with women homeowners. Again it does not have to be “super,” you just don’t want it to be really bad.
Now that you have chosen a company name, you need to register it with the county clerk. This is required to link your new company name to you. Banks require this registration to open a business checking account. Banks will then be able to allow you access to money that was made out to the company name.
You must go to the county clerk and verify that no other companies in your county are using the same name, fill out a form, pay the registration fee, and in some areas publish a public notice of the new company name. The county clerk’s office will guide you through the process.
Check as completed when you have acquired general liability insurance.
You need a dedicated telephone number. This is the number that consumers will call to request your service. Calls made to this number must always be answered in a professional manner.
The easiest and least expensive option is to request an additional phone number to be added to your current cell phone plan. Some people carry two cell phones, one personal and the other business. Be sure to clearly identify which phone is the “business line.”
The phone number you choose needs to be capable of call forwarding if you should want to use an answering service to receive your calls when you are unable to pick up the calls live.
The voice mail service that comes with the phone may be another option to use in order to capture after hours calls.
Check as completed when you have acquired Vehicle Insurance
Identify the colors you will use to brand your company. Determine the Pantone number for each color. It is important to stay as consistent as possible with your brand colors.
Select the type font you will use for most of your marketing materials. A consistent use of one primary font for the copy of your marketing materials will give your company a more professional appearance. Use a maximum of three (3) different fonts per printed material.
Upload the logo image you will use to brand your company name. It helps to have a logo to help consumers remember your company and to stand out from competitors. Determine what you will start with and you can update it later.
A digital page containing branded logo, fonts, colors, company info, and association logos, and graphics
Upload graphic images of your primary services. For example you will want images that will convey to consumers carpet cleaning, upholstery cleaning, and area rug cleaning.
Upload photos to be used for marketing. These should include: a head and shoulders shot of you wearing your uniform shirt with a plain background, you performing each of your primary services, photos of your vehicle in front of target market homes, and before and after photos.
Determine what your work uniform will be. T-shirts and blue jeans are less professional for a uniform. Consider an embroidered polo shirt in one of your company colors with a set color for pants/shorts and shoes.
Customers Company Image – Vehicle Lettering
Upload logos of organizations and groups you belong to.
Write a paragraph to describe your company history. If you are new describe why you started the company and what you plan to do differently than other companies. This will be used in marketing materials and in company profile pages.
Write a short paragraph describing each service you offer.
Write a two sentence biography of you as the owner of the company. Also write a one paragraph version of your biography. These will be used in marketing materials and profile pages.
Check off this task when you have established at least 10 consistent customer sources per month.
Check off this task when you have acquired 20 or more reliable customers sources per month.
Sources are the various means by which consumers find your business. The answer a customer gives when asked how they heard about you, is generally considered the source. There are five general sources: repeat, referrals, networking, internet, and advertising. When a specific source within these general sources, such as Yelp advertising, produces at least one customer per month, it should be separated out and listed as an independent source.
Each source is assigned a number for the average number of customers it provides each month. For example, if door hangers produce an average of 2.3 customers per month, its value would be counted as 2. These source values should be added up to determine the “current # of sources”.
Determine how many monthly customer sources you will need. This is one of your key goals.
Divide the amount of monthly revenue the company must generate to pay both business and personal bills by your average invoice amount to determine how many customer sources you will need.
Compile a list of at least 20-30 sources. Look to see what other service companies are doing to get new customers. There are hundreds of options. From this list you will begin to test them to see if these will be a profitable way to acquire customers.
Check off this task when you have established the goal number of consistent customer sources per month.
Determine how you can test each marketing idea on your potential source list. Design the ad/marketing piece for each idea on the list. Determine how long of a trial will be needed to fairly test each option. Calculate how much it will cost to run the test and what an acceptable return will be for that test. Generally electronic marketing such as AdWords or ads in Yelp or Angie’s List will need only a month or two. Print ads generally need to be run several times to get an accurate test result.
Consider if call tracking phone numbers (special phone numbers assigned to a very specific marketing effort) will help you measure the success of your marketing efforts. Call tracking numbers can be very revealing if you have other people answer your phones.
Develop a printed information piece that lists your company information and the services you provide. This can be printed on a half sheet of paper or card stock. Consumers often need more information than what is appropriate for a business card.
Make sure it is branded to match your other printed materials. The services you provide and your phone number need to be prominently displayed. Other information to consider including is your web address, photograph, certification, association memberships, and whether or not you accept credit cards.
It is to your advantage to mention that you are an owner-operated company and that you will be on all jobs.
You can also include your guarantee and what method you use for cleaning. These should not be dominant.
Whenever you design and write any marketing materials, always be sure to have it carefully checked for misspellings and inaccurate information. It looks bad to have any mistakes. Always check that your telephone number is included and correct.
Design and print business cards. Business cards are one of the least expensive marketing tools. They provide an easy way to pass your business contact information to others. Make a habit of handing them to every new person you meet. Leave two or three extra cards with each consumer that you clean for to make it easy to refer you.
Determine which invoice you will use.
A written invoice should be presented to the consumer before you start work. It should include the consumer name and address along with a description of the work to be performed and the total amount due for the job. If more work is added, the invoice can be modified to account for the extra work.
Pads of invoices are available at office supply stores. Your company name and contact information can be placed at the top with a label or rubber stamp. These invoice pads are made with carbon-less paper or they come with carbon paper for making copies.
As your company gets established, have invoices printed to match your company brand.
An easy way to help customers locate your name and phone number is to leave them a company refrigerator magnet. These typically cost less than a dollar apiece. These are worth every penny. Customers tend to keep them for years.
Customers Printed Materials – Reminder Card
Customers Printed Materials – Thank You Card
Upload your company profile and photos to Angie’s List profile page and provide as much information as you can to their questions. (Most of this information should be in your member profile page.) This is FREE!
Upload your company profile and photos to your Yelp profile page and provide as much information as you can to their questions. (Most of this information should be in your member profile page.) This is FREE!
Your web master can help you with this process. GoDaddy.com has a place to check to see if your desired name is available. It is preferable to use a domain name that ends with a “.com.”
Decide if SEO (Search Engine Optimization) should be a significant strategy to find you new customers. This will be greatly determined by your geographical location. This can be expensive in major metropolitan areas.
Decide who will act as your webmaster and design the company website. The website will be the first experience most people will have of your company. This is not a project for an amateur.
Consumers expect you to have a website. Pay a professional to design your website. A professional can make it consistent to your brand. Your website does not need to be fancy but it should describe your business well and look professional. Be sure to put your web address on all of your printed materials.
Warning! There are legal issues concerning the disposal of the dirty water extracted during the cleaning process. In many parts of the country, fines for improperly dumping can be as high as $10,000. You must dispose of the waste water according to your local laws. Your local supplier should be able to inform you of the legal requirements for proper waste water disposal.
Organize the area where you will be storing your cleaning supplies. It should be easy to find and inventory the supplies.
Organize your work vehicle. Everything should have a consistent storage location. Be sure to keep safety supplies and equipment easy to access.
Inventory all cleaning products in your work vehicle. Go to each manufacturer’s website to locate and print the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for each product you carry. Place the printed sheets in plastic binder page protectors. You can place all of the pages for each product in one page protector. Clearly identify the binder as holding these pages.
Use the Cleaning Solutions Inventory List as a guide to acquire needed cleaning solutions.
Determine which type and brand of primary cleaning equipment you will use. Fill in the name and type in the box.
Your supplier can be a great resource. Let him know that you plan on being loyal to him. It benefits him if you succeed. It is important to respect his time and ask him if there is a convenient time that he can give you some advice. He knows who the other cleaners are in your area so he might be able to introduce you to someone to help mentor you.
The mechanic at the shop can make things easier if you have mechanical problems. Go out of your way to greet him when you are in the shop. It never hurts to bring some doughnuts or soft drinks when you come asking for special favors. You want him to like you.
Use the Supply Inventory List as a guide to acquire the cleaning supplies you will need.
Acquire the small tools you will need. Use the Tool Inventory List as a guide.
What type of work vehicle are you using?
You cannot use the IICRC/The Clean Trust logo unless you have IICRC Certified Firm status.
Take the appropriate IICRC certification classes for all of the services you offer. Be sure to take and pass the exam offered at the end of the class. Continue to review the course information until it becomes familiar. Certifications become important marketing tools. At least one certification is required to obtain the status of an IICRC Certified Firm. You have to have the Certified Firm to use their logo.
Seek out other educational sources such as industry magazines and association websites. Ask your supplier if classes are being offered at the supplier’s location. Inquire if the local trade association has meetings in your area. There are also various industry chat rooms online that may be helpful. Always be cautious when getting advice from other cleaners who may not have accurate information.
Seek out as many opportunities as you can to ride along with experienced cleaners. There are things that you cannot learn from a classroom and training manual. By riding with other cleaners, you get to observe how they interact with consumers, the procedures they use, the speed at which they work, and other tips that are not taught during the class.
Always exchange business cards with cleaners you meet. Let them know that you are just starting in the business. Ask them if they have any advice to share. If they are open to talking, ask if it would be possible to join them on a job to assist. Many cleaners will take this as a complement. Be sure to follow up on any positive responses. Be sure to buy him/her lunch and be appreciative of the information he/she shares.
Replacement parts such as pully belts, quick connects, spare tire for vehicle and equipments
flares, can of spare tire, oil, jumper cables, duct tape, rope, quick ties.
All tools needed to perform on location repairs to vehicle and euipment.
Determine your breakeven point. This is the amount of money the company must generate to pay both business and personal monthly bills. This is the most important goal for your company to achieve.
Falling short of this amount requires you to use savings or credit to make up the difference. You have only a limited amount of savings and credit available. When this is exhausted, your business will fail. When your company can achieve this amount of revenue consistently, you have succeeded.
Are there any expenses – personal or business – that you can lower or cut in order to bring down the breakeven point number?
Fill out the chart to set your monthly revenue goals. Be sure to make adjustments to account for the seasonal slow periods where you live.
*Monthly revenue chart
Choose a legal business format for the company. The simplest, fastest, and least expensive option is to form it as a sole-proprietor. Other options include various types of corporations, partnerships, and a limited partnership. Each form has advantages and disadvantages. An attorney or CPA can advise you if one of these other forms will better serve your needs.
The format of the business you choose affects how you file taxes and what business liabilities you are personally responsible for.
For most of the country, there is a seasonal slow period for residential cleaning. Typically this slow season begins about December 15th when holiday decorations go up and lasts through April 15th – tax day – when the weather starts to warm. For established companies, the average income during a slow season month is about half that of the average of the other months. The slow period might be the exact opposite for Florida or Arizona due to weather differences.
Ask your supplier and other cleaners to verify when this slowdown occurs in your area.
Fill out the Magic Numbers Form to determine critical numbers needed to measure growth and profitability and to establish goals.
At what date will savings and credit run out?
Determine what level of service you will offer. Use the Service Level Chart to help determine what is appropriate for your chosen target market.
Sometimes the city you actually live in may not be your best official address. Google, Yelp, and Angie’s List searches sort according to your official address. Would a neighboring city be more advantageous for you to use?
State your primary method of cleaning. The method could include: truckmounted steam cleaning, portable steam cleaning, bonnet cleaning, Host cleaning, etc.
Check off this task ONLY when your service level, price, and cleaning pace are in line with what is appropriate for your chosen target market. This task is crucial because it ensures your target market will receive a good value.
Do not worry about listing every conceivable service you could offer.
Describe your desired target market. Include categories such as: married, professional, residential, etc. Do NOT say anyone who calls you!
Use the sample Vision Statement to develop your personal vision statement. Post this in a spot where it can be reviewed on a regular basis. The more details you can provide, the more helpful it will be.
Determine your carpet cleaning pace and write it in the space. Pace is determined by calculating the average square footage you clean from the time you pull up to the house until the time you drive away. Measure carpet cleaning jobs only for one week and determine the average number of square feet cleaned per hour. Be sure to note if this is cleanable space or total room square footage.
Fill in what you have for a guarantee or spotting warranty.
Write in your standard minimum charge.
Determine an appropriate charge for carpet cleaning (excluding protector, etc.) according to the target market and level of service you have chosen to offer. Fill in your charge and state whether it is based on actual room dimensions or only cleanable space.
Determine an appropriate charge for carpet protector according to the target market and level of service you have chosen to offer.
Determine an appropriate charge for upholstery cleaning according to the target market and level of service you have chosen to offer. Fill in your charge and state whether it is based on the length or piece (like sofa, club chair, etc.).
Give a general description of your normal service area. List the specific cities covered.
Write in what is normally included in your standard cleaning charge. For example: vacuuming, moving furniture, carpet protector, corner guards, wiping down baseboards, specialty stain spotting. The included services should be appropriate to the rate you are charging.